Two days before my fifteenth birthday, I was on the phone with my mother begging her to take me back.
I wanted to go home. I couldn’t stand another thought of living with my father. I was tired of hearing his sexual and off-color jokes, which made him seem to me even more decrepit with every passing moment. I wanted to die–I wanted to kill myself–rather than live with him. I believed at that time if my mother took me back that those dark feelings would go away. I begged for her forgiveness and promised I would be a good person if she would just take me back.
My sister was living with my mother in Indiana at that point. I really don’t remember how she got back to my mother’s place, but somehow she had managed. My mother had allowed me to come home on condition that I didn’t argue with her. Living with my mother came with sacrifices though. For instance, I lost my bedroom. Instead, I had to sleep on a pallet on the floor under the stairs and out in the open. My mother and her new husband and my little brother all got their own rooms. There was no privacy. I had nowhere to put my things…it was a good thing I didn’t own much. My sister and I shared a small chest of drawers in a corner where we put our clothes. However, that is not what mattered to me. What mattered to me was that I was not living with my father in Oklahoma.
Moving back to Indiana didn’t change my emotional state. I was still depressed. I still had nearly constant thoughts of suicide. I often lay awake at night hoping and wishing that my great-grandmother whom I had lived with when I was very young would give me a message of hope from the grave. I wanted her to visit me in my dreams. I loved my great-grandmother and wanted her to take me away.
My mother and I fought all the time. The fighting was so consuming that finally, within a month of returning to my mother’s home in Indiana, my sister and I went over to our stepdad’s, who was recently married to my mother’s best friend, and asked if we could live with them. My stepdad said we could live with him and his new wife in his apartment and so my sister and I went home and told our mother that we were moving. She seemed happy to me to have us move out. That same hour my sister and I grabbed all of our personal things and moved out of my mother’s apartment.
At that point, I was too naive to see my stepdad’s wife’s jealousy and manipulation. Even still, I just wanted a mother that would care for me and make me feel loved. I hoped that my stepdad’s wife would be that mother I so desperately wanted. All I wanted was a family to call my own. I was angry that God hadn’t given me a good family, and yet I still faithfully hoped each day that He would allow a family into my life that I could be sealed eternally to. I felt like I was being punished and I didn’t know why, and each day I saw my friends with their families was a constant reminder of that feeling. I wanted a connection to something that for me would never happen. Not having a family cut me like a thousand knives. It made me feel separate from my friends at church.
The next few months living with my stepdad were uncomfortable, but not as bad as they had been living with my mother or with Charlie. There were some positive choices that I made during those six months that I lived with my stepdad and his wife. Those good decisions would impact me for the rest of my life. For instance, my stepdad made me go back to high school, something I am forever grateful for, and I gained new friends at school and at church.
I loved attending church and felt my life was beginning to come together as I became closer spiritually with God. My mother and stepdad were converts to the Mormon Church and they had been baptized when I was seven. After my stepdad received the priesthood, I was baptized by him into the Mormon Church when I turned eight. At first, we attended church regularly, but as time moved on and we left our original ward in Lewisville, Texas we became less and less active. We struggled with church attendance, and so participating actively in church filled a void.
Thus, my interest in religion and spirituality was renewed. I completed several personal improvement projects in my Young Womens manual, attended mutual youth activities during the week, and I gained a testimony of God and His Son that year. Church was my outlet and my life. My faith in God was the only thing that kept me from hurting myself and made me want to live. If it weren’t for my strong faith in God, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with life when I was fifteen—not then and not in the coming years that lay ahead. My personal faith in God and His Son was my rock.
During the summer of that same year, I attended two spiritual building activities with my church. One trip was to Nauvoo, Illinois with my Young Womens group where I learned about the Mormon Church’s early history and the second was a Stake Youth Activity. I enjoyed both trips and they helped build my faith and my testimony in a Supreme Being. The Stake Youth Activity lasted the span of a couple days and included motivational speakers and games. The last day of the activity, my stepdad and his wife arrived at the church to pick me up a little early. I was genuinely surprised by their sudden appearance since the Stake Youth Activity wasn’t quite over.
I remember their words clearly, “Hey, here’s a change of clothes. We’re going on a family vacation!”
To be continued…